Conexus Indiana has been charting Indiana’s digital transformation journey for the last two years with the help of Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industries. By working with Conexus Indiana to report where they are on this journey and what resources they need to accelerate it, the state’s makers and movers have helped to improve Indiana’s prospects in these rapidly changing industries. The 2022 survey was launched in early March, and we are asking for Indiana companies to respond – further informing how Conexus Indiana can support their digital transformation journey.

In early 2021, Brookings Institution released a comprehensive study that showed Indiana firms needed to increase their technology investments to prevent Indiana from losing its advanced manufacturing and logistic leadership position. Indiana has the highest concentration of manufacturing jobs in the nation, yet it has been losing its productivity advantage since 2007.  

Conexus Indiana has been working diligently to determine how best to help Indiana’s advanced manufacturers increase productivity and has found that the best solutions come from a sharper view of the challenge. Recognizing the need for more data, Conexus Indiana and the Indiana University Kelley School of Business Center for Excellence in Manufacturing conducted a survey in 2020 of Indiana advanced manufacturing and logistics firms, seeking to measure how firms are adopting today’s digital technologies, aka, “Industry 4.0.”

What we learned was that while large firms were leaning into technology adoption – and enjoying increased productivity and quality as a result – small and midsized firms were struggling to find the resources to invest in technology, and most didn’t have a concrete tech adoption roadmap to inform future strategies.

Enter the Manufacturing Readiness Grants, a state-funded matching-grant program that supports investments in smart manufacturing technology. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with Conexus Indiana, launched the program in mid-2020 with $4 million in available grants. The grant program proved so successful that the General Assembly quickly allocated another $20 million to be awarded through June 2023.

Results from our 2022 tech adoption study found that Indiana companies kicked up their technology adoption considerably, with the number of firms implementing or piloting new technologies more than doubling to 43% in 2021 (up from 20% in 2020). It revealed that firms are allocating more resources to high-tech and digital initiatives such as collaborative robots (cobots), machine vision, 3D printing, advanced sensors and big data and analysis. In fact, to date, 169 awards have been announced totaling more than $13.4 million in Manufacturing Readiness Grants. These grants are supporting a projected $93 million in capital investment in Industry 4.0 technologies. And more awards are soon to be announced.

Employers also report that Industry 4.0 technologies are not displacing workers, but, instead, are allowing existing talent to focus on functions that machines and algorithms cannot do. “You hear about automation killing jobs,” says Indiana Furniture Vice President of Operations Chad Nord. “But it’s really freeing up humans to do the human work.”

The bottom line is this: In less than two years, the data that Conexus was able to collect and disseminate led to programs – like the Manufacturing Readiness Grants program – that are increasing the pace of technology adoption.

We are collecting more data this year, seeking to gauge the ongoing impact of the Manufacturing Readiness Grants and to identify further tech adoption trends.

We’re confident that this survey can have the kind of impact the first two had. But that will only be possible if we receive strong participation from Indiana’s diverse network of advanced manufacturing and logistics firms. Your response will help Conexus Indiana better understand what we can do to ensure we continue our momentum toward high-tech opportunities for Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics firms and their employees.  

If you’re a member of the manufacturing and logistics industries, your participation in the survey is needed. Visit www.conexusindiana.com/advancing-industry/research-reports/ to take the survey today.

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